When Paul Rudd tells an embarrassing story, he leaves in details other celebrities might be too proud to reveal.
The 39-year-old actor cringes with amusement as he remembers when, less than two weeks ago, he got caught in an awkward situation while promoting his new comedy “I Love You, Man.” Rudd, taking a bathroom break with co-star Jason Segel before a TV interview, thought it’d be funny to pull his drawers down to his ankles.
The joke scored laughs from his one-man audience, recalls Rudd, but backfired when Segel walked out the door and a stranger entered.
“I’m pulling my pants up in front of a urinal and my (rear end) is sticking out and the guy just like, walks in,” Rudd said.
He tried to explain, but it was no use. According to Segel, said Rudd, the unwitting bystander “walked to his friend, kind of shaken, and said ‘You won’t believe what I just saw.’ ”
He says things like that happen to him all the time – which comes as no surprise, given Rudd’s special knack for spinning awkward moments into comedy gold. Rudd serves up massive doses of that awkwardness – and likability – in his latest role as an insecure, squarish real estate agent in “I Love You, Man,” directed by John Hamburg.
Rudd’s character, Peter, has focused on girlfriends, at the expense of male friendships, and has no close friends to be his best man. So he embarks on some failed man dates to find Mr. Right, eventually clicking with easygoing bachelor Sydney (Segel), who shows up at an open house for the free food and lusty divorcees.
Peter tries to impress Sydney, making jokes that fall flat (he randomly calls his new pal “Jobin” in a futile effort to banter like a bro).
“I know that feeling of insecurity and overcompensation that I try to do with the character, but I don’t think I’m quite as awkward as some of those moments,” said Rudd, adding: “But I can be.”
Donald De Line, who produced the film, calls Rudd an authentic fit.
“He has that incredibly likable, open, sweet quality – kind of that Everyman quality – and at the same time, he just a little bit throws you off kilter,” said De Line.
Rudd regularly appears in the films of Judd Apatow, whose world is populated by geeky guys: The actor walked the line between stalkery and sweetheart as a sad-sack electronics store employee pining for his ex in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” He played a put-upon husband in “Knocked Up” and an absent-minded surfer in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”
“I imagine I just play average guys who – whatever they’re going through – are relatable,” Rudd said. “That’s what’s interesting to me. I don’t think I’d be a very good action guy.”
The birthday bunch
Actor Karl Malden is 97. Composer Stephen Sondheim is 79. Actor William Shatner is 78. Actor M. Emmet Walsh is 74. Singer Jeremy Clyde of Chad and Jeremy is 68. Singer-guitarist George Benson is 66. News anchor Wolf Blitzer is 61. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is 61. Sportscaster Bob Costas is 57. Actress Lena Olin is 54. Actor Matthew Modine is 50. Actress Reese Witherspoon is 33.